readings on which the sermon
below is based can be found at: http://web.me.com/frsparky/iWeb/r199.htm
s199g10 Sunday 32 Hanmer Springs 7/11/2010
In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.
(Fr Jim Cotter http://www.cottercairns.co.uk/)
‘whose wife will the woman be?’ Luke 20.33
The tradition of the Levirate marriage, the marrying of the deceased
brother’s wife is ancient, being specified in Deuteronomy 25.5-6 and
was clearly known in the time of Genesis 38:6-10, after Joseph was sold
to the slave traders and went to Egypt. Judah, Jacob’s
fourth son by
Leah, takes a Canaanite wife, who bears him three sons, Er, Onan and
Shelah. Judah arranges Er to marry Tamar, presumably also a
woman, but we are told Er is wicked and the Lord ‘put him to
So Tamar is given to Onan his brother to raise up offspring for Er, but
when ‘Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his
semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that
he would not give offspring to his brother’.
I note that this is a repeated malicious act toward a foreign woman and
we are told: ‘What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and
he put him to death also.’ It is clear that it was vitally
to Tamar that she have a child, because eventually she has to trick
Judah, her father in law, into making her pregnant.
Now this might seem an awful lot of detail, but it is important to see
that those who are wicked are very clear what belongs to whom, just
like the questioners who come to Jesus want to know whose this seven
times married woman will be in the life to come. These people
law inside out, but they were still wicked, and the reason why they
were wicked is all to do with knowing who belonged to whom.
This should alert us to the eternal propensity of the children of God
to know what is theirs and to act uncharitably towards others,
‘christians’ no less than any others.
Of course the actions of Onan have spawned an official condemnation of
masturbation, though for the life of me, I cannot understand why.
should also alert us to the propensity of the church to criticise other
people’s intimate behaviour, blithely blinding themselves to the real
message of charity so clearly set out in scripture. Here
foreign woman being abused by a key member of God’s chosen people, and
God was prepared to kill the descendants of Judah when they acted
uncharitably towards her. Being the people of God is no
In the course of the preparation of this sermon I did some research and
found that St Thomas Aquinas (1224 - 1275) rated the seriousness of the
various sins of initmacy - (if I read him correctly) with masturbation
as most serious (!), then incest, rape, adultery and premarital
intimacy as the least serious! (Summa Theologica II-II,
knew that when I was growing up :-)
Wikipedia tells me that John Harvey Kellogg (1852 - 1943 - of breakfast
cereal fame) ‘was an especially zealous campaigner; this was an
orthodox view during his lifetime, especially the earlier
Kellogg was able to draw upon many medical sources' claims such as
"neither the plague, nor war, nor small-pox, nor similar diseases, have
produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of
onanism," credited to one Dr. Adam Clarke. Kellogg strongly
against the habit in his own words, claiming .. (it) .. destroyed not
only physical and mental health, but the moral health of individuals as
well. .. (and) caused cancer of the womb, urinary diseases, nocturnal
emissions, impotence, epilepsy, insanity, and mental and physical
debility; (apparently) "dimness of vision" was only briefly
It continues to be condemned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #
http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm And no
there are some good Anglicans who would teach the same thing.
I find it fascinating that concentrating on the sins of intimacy of
others - concerning oneself only with the moral purity of oneself and
one’s spiritual family, makes us blind to the needs of others - it
makes us dead. God is God of the living and the seeing, not
the dead. This is the message of today’s
gospel. It is the Church
playing with itself that makes it blind!
Jesus leads us to see that every person is deserving of
Women are not chattels of men, to be given away even to the man the
daughter may have chosen. God, by whatever name God is
not countenance rape as a weapon of war by any self-proclaimed
disciples. Nothing, but nothing, excuses treating others as
one would treat one’s own son or daughter. So there is
point whatsoever in making a distinction between ‘christians’ and
others. Labelling those who belong to us and our tribe,
makes us as wicked as the questioners who come to Jesus.
Would any of us invite someone to our home and then say that because
they weren’t part of our family, they couldn’t share in the
when we expect others to come to church, but then expect them not to
receive the Holy Communion, what are we saying? If we are
the Holy Communion only belongs to us, are we not wicked
too? If Holy
Communion is just playing with ourselves - are we not thereby already
blind, are we not already dead?
Again and again I am coming to realise how the religion I have been
taught has focussed on my behaviour, when Jesus came and talked about
right religion. It was not individuals who had Jesus
killed, but a
theology which delineated who was in and who was out; who belonged to
whom, and who didn’t belong. It was precisely the fact that
associated with those who didn’t belong, the tax-collectors,
prostitutes and sinners, that he had to be disposed of.
And as I reflect on this I think how the church preaches that we ought
to love our enemies as individuals, yet corporately consigns people who
don’t believe like us, worship like us and live life like we do - those
who don’t belong to us - to eternal damnation. Is there not
logical disconnect here? For all we might as individuals
enemies, if the church as a corporation actually doesn’t accept others
for who they are, what good are our little individual
leaves me feeling like the church is using me to encourage people to be
a part of the church so that then the church can have its way with some
more individuals. And this all in the name of some ‘god’
different from the one I worship. For when push comes to
personally wouldn’t want to invite any of my friends into a church
where there is even the slightest possibility that they might not be
accepted fully and enthusiastically, whoever they are, without
precondition or expectation. On the other hand I rejoice to
friends with all sorts of people, and to do so in the name of God.
I started with the statement about how important it is for the wicked
to know just who belongs to whom, and I think about the
denominationalism that so bedevils both ‘christianity’ and other
faiths. The question: Whose will this other person be?
attitudes to them. Of course the real answer is the the
belongs to God, whoever they are, whatever they believe or not, however
they worship or not, with whom they choose to be intimate or not -
everyone is God’s. No-one is put on this earth to be anyone
My text for today was: ‘whose wife will the woman be?’ when they really
meant: ‘which man did this seven times married woman really belong
to?’ And the answer to that is: none of them!
Even marriage is a
joint and equal partnership and if it isn’t then it isn’t much of a
For me it is only such an interpretation which makes sense of Jesus’
words: ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife
and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot
be my disciple’ (Luke 14.26) but also: ‘You shall love your neighbour
as yourself.’ (Matthew 19.19) We are called to love
those who don’t
belong to us, for even the wicked love those who belong the them.
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